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Successful Resultions for the New Year

Are you in New Year’s resolution mode? You know, thinking of starting a new diet, sport, career…? Feeling like casting off bad habits like smoking, toenail biting or your addiction to the Jeremy Kyle show?

At Wildflower Yoga we have also been turning our attention to intention, in the form of setting sankalpas – a Sanskrit name meaning ‘intention, will, purpose or motivation’. And we wanted to share a bit about this powerful yogic practice with you.

How to choose your intention

A key to realising your desire, is deciding on what your sankalpa will be. We are actually creating sankalpas all the time, but usually not consciously. All the time, every day we repeat thoughts which often result in habitual feelings and behaviours. These thoughts are the result of intentions that originated in the deepest level of our minds. So it is best to set sankalpas that relate to this deep level of our mind and motivation, if we want to see changes in our actions and feelings and lasting change. This is why lots of our best intentions and resolution don’t often work! For instance, a sankalpa that ‘I will never shout at my kids again’ relates to a specific behaviour, whereas a more effective sankalpa would look beyond at the cause of the shouting and what intention would shift things (e.g. ‘I will be more aware when I feel irritated’ - as once we can observe our irritation and anger as it arises we start to reduce the level, duration and eventually the frequency of it). In the words of Swami Satyananda Saraswati:

‘The purpose of sankalpa is to influence and transform the whole life pattern, not only physically but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Then, if you are a heavy smoker or drinker, you will automatically give it up.’

Of course there is a place for planning specific practical activities which enhance our lives, for instance making a plan to buy healthier food, book a family holiday, run 3 times a week etc. But when it comes to sankalpas, the power is in the more deep-seated intentions that work in us more holistically.

It is also argued by many that it is important you don’t get hung up on definite outcomes, when setting your sankalpa. So rather than focus on the results (e.g. ‘I will diet and gain a six-pack’) it is all about the intention (e.g. ‘I will treat my body with respect’). Deepak Chopra, a master at intention setting and realisation says, once you have set your intention, ‘relinquish… attachment to a specific result and live in the wisdom of uncertainty... Intend for everything to work out as it should, then let go and allow opportunities and openings to come your way.’

So after all those considerations, I am now going to advise that you try not to get too stuck in your head and overthink it! When you come to create your sankalpa, give yourself time and space and make sure you are in a calm, settled state – perhaps after a gentle yoga practice or meditation. This will let you turn your awareness inwards and explore what in you feels ready for change at a deep level. From there you will find your sankalpa.

How to word your sankalpa

As the sankalpa have to be taken in by all levels of your mind it is best to keep them short, clear and positive. This means asking for what you want (e.g. I want more compassion for myself and others), rather than what you don’t want (e.g. I wish I could be less selfish, greedy… and less down on myself).

When to practice your sankalpa

New year is a great time to set our purpose, but sankalpas can be made and focused on at any time or place.

That said there are yoga practices which can boost their effectiveness. In Wildflower yoga classes we sometimes invite our students to set an intention at the start of the yoga practice e.g. I will be calm and focused throughout my practice. Then when you feel challenged during the session you can bring your awareness back to your intention. This might also link to an overarching sankalpa you have set for your life, e.g. to be more present.

Meditation can also boost our power of purpose. It takes the practioner to a deep level of the mind to plant the intention - and as we discussed this is the level from which intentions germinate and grow.

You might also create times in the day when you repeat your sankalpa to yourself such as when you get up in the morning, or when you go to bed. It can also be helpful to bring your purpose to mind whenever you need positive support such as strength, hope or direction.

Sankalpas: Nothing to lose and everything to gain

Sankalpas then are a practical and powerful tool to help us consciously set our intentions and purpose to shape ourselves and our lives. Set them carefully and you will benefit and grow, whether that be small changes to seismic shifts in how we act and react to life. In fact, if we and subsequently our lives are driven by our deepest intentions, it seems highly advisable to consciously start setting those intentions! As the ancient Vedic texts the Upanishads advise us:

‘You are what your deepest desire is. As is your desire, so is your intention. As is your intention, so is your will. As is your will, so is your deed, so is your destiny.’
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

If you do set your sankalpa we would love you to get in contact and let us know, we find it inspiring to hear about others setting their purpose and the wonderful impact it has.

Alison Bridgwater is a teacher at Wildflower Yoga in Earlsfield

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